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Food writing

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Title: Food writing  
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Subject: Joanna Blythman, Sophie Grigson, Food/Selected person/11, Gwyneth Paltrow, DIT School of Culinary Arts and Food Technology
Collection: Food Writers, Food-Related Literary Genres
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Food writing

Food writing is writing that focuses on the topic of food, both widely and narrowly defined, and includes work by food critics and food historians.


  • Definition 1
  • Authors 2
  • Books (not easily attributable to an author) 3
  • See also 4
  • External links 5
  • References 6


Food writing regards food not only as a substance, but also as a cultural phenomenon. Food writer John T. Edge explains how the genre views its topic: "Food is essential to life. It’s arguably our nation’s biggest industry. Food, not sex, is our most frequently indulged pleasure. Food—too much, not enough, the wrong kind, the wrong frequency—is one of our society’s greatest causes of disease and death."[1] Food writer Mark Kurlansky links this vision of food directly to food writing, giving the genre's scope and range when he observes: “Food is about agriculture, about ecology, about man’s relationship with nature, about the climate, about nation-building, cultural struggles, friends and enemies, alliances, wars, religion. It is about memory and tradition and, at times, even about sex.”[2]

Because food writing is topic centered, it is not a genre in itself, but writing that utilizes a wide range of traditional genres, including recipes, journalism, memoir, and travelogues. Food writing can also refer to poetry and fiction, such as Marcel Proust’s À la recherche du temps perdu (In Search of Lost Time), with its famous passage in which the narrator recollects his childhood memories as a result of sipping tea and eating a madeleine.

Often, however, food writing is used to specify writing that takes a more literary approach to food, such as that of the famous American food writer M.F.K. Fisher, who describes her writing about food as follows:

It seems to me our three basic needs, for food and security and love, are so mixed and mingled and entwined that we cannot straightly think of one without the others. So it happens that when I write of hunger, I am really writing about love and the hunger for it, and warmth and the love of it and the hunger for it . . . and then the warmth and richness and fine reality of hunger satisfied . . . and it is all one.[3]

In this literary sense, food writing aspires toward more than merely communicating information about food; it also aims to provide readers with an aesthetic experience. Food writer Adam Gopnik divides such food writing into two categories, "the mock epic and the mystical microcosmic," and provides examples of their most noted practitioners:

The mock epic (A. J. Liebling, Calvin Trillin, the French writer Robert Courtine, and any good restaurant critic) is essentially comic and treats the small ambitions of the greedy eater as though they were big and noble, spoofing the idea of the heroic while raising the minor subject to at least temporary greatness. The mystical microcosmic, of which Elizabeth David and M. F. K. Fisher are the masters, is essentially poetic, and turns every remembered recipe into a meditation on hunger and the transience of its fulfillment.[4]

Examples of contemporary food writers working in this mode include Ruth Reichl, Betty MacDonald, and Jim Harrison.

As a term, “food writing” is a relatively new descriptor. It came into wide use in the 1990s and, unlike “sports writing,” or “nature writing,” has yet to be included in the Oxford English Dictionary.[5][6] Consequently, definitions of food writing when applied to historical works are retrospective. Classics of food writing, such as the 18th-century French gastronome Jean Anthelme Brillat-Savarin’s Physiologie du goût (The Physiology of Taste), predate the term and have helped to shape its meaning.


This is a list of some prominent writers on food, cooking, dining, and cultural history related to food.

Books (not easily attributable to an author)

See also

External links

  • Books for Cooks An online exhibit of historical cookbooks at the British Library.
  • "Dining Out: The Food Critic at Table" A review of food writing and writers by Adam Gopnick that examines the genre.
  • "In Defense of Food Writing: A Reader’s Manifesto" A defense of the genre by Eric LeMay based on Michael Pollan's In Defense of Food.
  • "On Food Writing" Advice about the craft of food writing from Michael Rhulman.
  • "Between the Lines: Picnic in the Democrative Forest" An argument that food writing should take on "a democratic way of looking at our food culture."
  • "Interview with Jonathan Gold" Appears in The Believer, September 2012.
  • "How to Write About Food: How to Become a Published Restaurant Critic, Food Journalist, Cookbook Author, and Food Blogger" written by S.J. Sebellin-Ross, restaurant critic; inside look at food writing.


  1. ^ Edge, John T. "Between the Lines: Picnic in the Democrative Forest," Creative Nonfiction Issue 41, 2011. Retrieved from on April 25, 2012.
  2. ^ Kurlansky, Mark. Choice Cuts: A Savory Selection of Food Writing from around the World and throughout History. New York: Penguin, 2002, p. 1.
  3. ^ Fischer, M.F.K. The Gastronomical Me. New York: North Point, 1989, p. ix.
  4. ^ Gopnik, Adam. "Dining Out: The Food Critic at Table," The New Yorker April 4, 2005. Retrieved from on October 1, 2011.
  5. ^ Ngram Viewer. Retrieved from on June 20, 2011
  6. ^ Oxford English Dictionary. Retrieved from on June 20, 2011.
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